New Plymouth superintendent resigns

(FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Read about the terms of his six-figure buyout contract).

New Plymouth superintendent Kevin Barker resigned Wednesday night following months of turmoil and pressure from the New Plymouth Education Association.

Trustees spent three hours in executive session before returning to open meeting to unanimously accept Barker’s resignation, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Kevin Barker

Details of the resignation or a possible settlement were not made available at the meeting. Board chairman Dave Brogan said Barker would be released from his current contract and the board would accept the terms of the “proposed arrangement,” Christina Lords of the Statesman reported.

Barker released a statement through his attorney Thursday afternoon, saying he entered into a “favorable agreement” with the board.

“As superintendent, Mr. Barker insisted on high ethical standards, accountability and strong leadership,” the one-page statement read, in part. “Recent changes within the district tested these values and, although the situation has been challenging for district leaders, Mr. Barker appreciates the process and involvement of the staff, students and community. Mr. Barker would like to express his gratitude to the board. The members are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities for students and have given Mr. Barker the support needed to be successful during his tenure as superintendent.” (Read his full statement at the bottom of this article.)

The NPEA has repeatedly called on Barker to resign. Educators and community members later began a recall effort against the trustees. It’s likely that the recall process will cease, said Pierrette Madrid-Harris, an executive committee member and spokesperson for the NPEA.

“Our small town has been through a lot in the last few months,” Madrid-Harris said in a news release. “It is now time that we all come together — educators, school board members, parents and community stakeholders — to mend relationships and restore our school district to the excellent quality that we have come to expect here in New Plymouth.”

The turmoil began with a public battle between Barker and then-high school principal Clete Edmunson. On Jan. 16, Barker told Idaho Education News that Edmunson had suddenly and voluntarily resigned. Edmunson said he was pressured into resigning. High school students responded by walking out of class and staging a demonstration.

Edmunson then rescinded his letter of resignation.

In the days that followed, district employees sent a letter to trustees accusing Barker of “bullying” and “retaliation” and harassing personnel “to the point of severe mental anguish.” According to this letter, 73 of 100 New Plymouth employees declared no confidence in Barker during a secret ballot election.

Barker dismissed the accusations and the numbers and said he would not resign. The trustees responded to say they supported Barker and accused his opponents of dealing in “innuendo, rumors or gossip.”

Before trustees could decide Edmunson’s fate, he resigned for good. Edmunson was later named superintendent in the Council School District.

Barker and trustees could not be reached for comment early Thursday morning.

“We still have a long way to go but we are encouraged by the events of this evening and we look forward to working with the school board to identify a strong leader for our district,” said Madrid-Harris after Wednesday’s board meeting.

Kevin Barker’s full resignation statement:

New Plymouth School District Superintendent Kevin Barker resigned his position last evening after entering into a favorable agreement with the district board.

Mr. Barker has been a part of the New Plymouth educational community for more than 25 years serving as an agricultural science teacher, FFA adviser, high school principal and superintendent. Because of his connection with the schools and students the decision to resign was difficult. Nonetheless, this change presents Mr. Barker with the ability to explore other opportunities and allows him much-needed time to focus on family.

As superintendent, Mr. Barker insisted on high ethical standards, accountability and strong leadership. Recent changes within the district tested these values and, although the situation has been challenging for district leaders, Mr. Barker appreciates the process and involvement of the staff, students and community.

Mr. Barker would like to express his gratitude to the board. The members are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities for students and have given Mr. Barker the support needed to be successful during his tenure as superintendent.

— Prepared and released by Morrow and Fischer, attorneys at law.

Jennifer Swindell

About Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over one million pageviews in 2019. Jennifer has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected]

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